"Anything that happens is probably fine."
It was the last thing I wrote in my journal, probably minutes ago, yet when I look down at the page I already feel as though I have drifted so far in my head from this point of view. How rapidly life shifts between feeling totally unlivable to deeply humorous. The people around me seem fine. Even when their lives are a mess they can still make jokes about television shows and shopping the pain away by buying platform shoes. M says, “I have to keep my hair short now because I’m getting old and shaggy hair doesn’t look good on aging men.” The absence of any distress in his remark surprises me. “How do you talk about aging so casually, with such cool detachment and acceptance of the fact of aging?” His rotting teeth don’t even seem to phase him. But I can’t seem to think the phrase “we age” or look at the scars on my body without feeling deep existential dread about the inevitability of death. Becoming unlovable. A worthless woman.
I am surprised that it is possible for anyone to ever get acclimated to living. To wake up without feeling intense psychic friction or mental anguish about having to live another day. To go on dates. To make dating profiles. To move the record player from the bedroom to the living room. To check their email. To have friends over for dinner. To answer phone calls. To get haircuts. On a hot summer New York day I sat outside M’s barbershop on the curb drinking a can of Arizona iced tea, wondering if I could one day be the kind of person who gets haircuts. Everyone seemed to want to tell me about their love and sex lives and I listened with the curiosity of an anthropologist. People get drunk, have sloppy sex, scream WHY DONT YOU JUST GO GET HIS COCK in Washington Sq Park. Throw knives. Hit each other. Cheat. Get jealous. Cruise. Have make-up sex. Break up marriages. Cry. Want more. Fuck their friends. Get suspended from hooks every weekend. Give lap dances to the men of Wall St. Get tied up. Learn how to navigate being just friends. Fall in love at the wrong time. Know whether they are a “top” or a “bottom.” Feel exhausted by polyamory. Get out of bad relationships. Get into good relationships. Know what they want. Don’t know what they want. Say they want one thing then do another. Feel gendered in different ways in different contexts. Think about relationality. Don’t think about relationality. Don’t tell their old lovers they have a new lover. Get obsessed. Keep getting back together. Dry spells. Transitions. Spraying the terrain. Accept that things change. Don’t accept that things change. Protracted break ups. Not wanting to lose one’s object. -Come get your cat. -I don’t want to get the cat because that would mean that things are really over. Desire strikes, an unforeseeable bolt cleaves a life. It’s not the instability or irrationality of human relationships that surprises me, but people’s orientation to fluctuation. The ongoingness of life. The capacity to not dwell in the devastation.
While sitting in the garden with M he asks what Hannah asked when she was visiting: What do you want? To which I reply, I don’t know. He says, make a mess. If it’s not going to completely destroy you in the end, it’s fine. You’re young. Experiment.
When M’s haircut is finished we walk back to his apartment, talking about crushes, cybernetics, teeth, whatever. He stops abruptly to take a selfie of his new haircut but unable to get the lighting and angle right he hands me his phone to take the picture for him. I joke, “The selfie is the user’s attempt to assert its subjectivity against the collapse of all western metaphysical systems.” He smiles because in some small way he sees that I see him and being seen seeing also constitutes me too. Maybe in the same way someone feels they have shape only when they are caring for another. Maybe it’s the shape I’m given when I stop into a corner store to buy M Cherry Garcia-flavored Ben & Jerry’s ice cream when we were all walking home from the bar drunk. Because I knew what he wanted in that moment. Small gestures.
The day before I left for New York Dana and I talked about what it means to have shape only in relation to another. He started texting me while I was sitting on the perron of the Widener library at sunset rereading My Walk With Bob, feeling devastated about Bruce’s loss of Jonathan, his sense that he was being replaced, that it was the most natural thing that a relationship should collapse and with it, the domestic language that was form during the encounter. “How am I going to get along now, who’s going to take care of me?” Dana: “and with no one to care for—how will I be real to myself?” I told Dana that I have not yet figured out how to orient myself to loss in that I stubbornly insist on on living with absences, presentizing them because I can’t let anything go, but that’s not entirely true, I think as M and I converse with tenderness and familiarity of close siblings. I feel silly about my April sadomasochistic M fantasies, though perhaps to indulge the irrational fixation further would have been fine too. “You’re fine,” he says to my neurotic self-analysis. “Am I?” I ask. “Yes.” “But why do I feel so ashamed?” “Maybe you can play with that shame. Maybe the shame can be erotic.”
Is that the Chris Kraus approach? To not necessarily strive for shamelessness but affirm one’s abjectness or at least reconcile oneself to the possibility that what might register as a personal defect in the way that one relates to or loves others may actually be a site of potential? Anyway, M won’t indulge my usual line of thinking. You can’t convince a self-described pervert that any way of desiring is defective.